COLLEGE FOOTBALL : Huskies Take Care of First Things First : Pacific 10: Abdul-Jabbar is injured on first play and UCLA quarterbacks can’t pick up the slack against Washington.
With six solo tackles, including one sack, Washington nose guard David Richie continually was a major problem for UCLA’s offense in the Huskies’ 38-14 rout Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
But Richie’s biggest impact came on the Bruins’ first offensive play.
Lined up in the gap between UCLA center Mike Flanagan and left guard James Christensen, Richie rushed inside on a simple Bruin running play to star tailback Karim Abdul-Jabbar.
“The defensive call was for me to stunt inside,” said Richie, a 6-foot-4 junior. "[Christensen] tried to take me outside, but I shot in front of him and there was Karim. When I hit him, some other players followed right behind me and there was a big pileup.”
What Richie found out after he made the tackle was that Abdul-Jabbar’s right ankle was turned on the play, forcing him to sit out the rest of the game and end any realistic chance of a Bruin victory.
“He didn’t scream or make any loud noise, but I knew he was hurt when we got up and he just laid there on the ground,” Richie said. “He just didn’t move.”
Without Abdul-Jabbar, who had rushed for more than 200 yards in each of the last three games, UCLA was forced to rely heavily on freshman quarterback Cade McNown.
“If you had to have one choice on which player you would like to have out of the game, [Abdul-Jabbar] would certainly be the most dominating player we could choose,” Washington Coach Jim Lambright said. “Once he went out, the game turned into much more of a pass-rush and coverage deal for our defense. That forced UCLA to count on a freshman quarterback to carry the load and handle our pressure.”
McNown and his backups, Ryan Fien and Rob Walker, weren’t up to the task against the Huskies’ hard-rushing defensive front, which forced UCLA into five turnovers.
“It was definitely a sigh of relief to see that [Abdul-Jabbar] wasn’t going back in the game,” Washington safety Lawyer Milloy said. “It gave us an edge defensively. We were able to get a couple of turnovers early and that took some pride away from them.”
McNown, who played most of the first three quarters, completed seven of 19 passes for 61 yards with three interceptions. Fien, who led UCLA to its only touchdown in the second half, finished with 10 completions in 15 attempts for 114 yards. Walker, who finished the game for the Bruins, completed two of six for 21 yards with one interception.
The Huskies were able to play games on McNown by mixing up their defensive coverages at the line of scrimmage. Nearly every time McNown thought that Washington was blitzing he would audible to a short pass play and then the Huskies would adjust on the snap of the ball.
That was a key early in the second quarter when the Bruins had the ball on their own two-yard line, trailing only 14-7. On first down, McNown called an audible for a quick slant pattern to Eric Scott, but Washington outside linebacker Ikaika Malloe dropped back into coverage instead of blitzing and took the ball out of Scott’s hands for an interception that led to the Huskies’ third touchdown.
“We just started to concentrate on getting to their quarterback,” Malloe said. “We would get him to check into a quick out or slant by showing a certain defensive look and he would do exactly what we wanted him to do. We couldn’t have asked for better results.”
With UCLA limited offensively, the Huskies finally were able to do something that has plagued them all season, and that was to put a team away once they got a lead.
In a loss to Notre Dame and a tie against USC, the Huskies failed to hold on to leads when it appeared that they had control of the game.
“That surely was on our minds, because we were determined not to have that happen to us any more,” said Milloy, who led the team with nine tackles. “We wanted to close the door and do something that we haven’t really done all season. We wanted to do a complete job, and that’s what makes this win so great.”
After being ineligible for any bowl game the last two seasons, Washington (6-3-1) assured itself of a postseason game, with the Cotton Bowl a possibility.
“We’ve been discussing about playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game the last three or four weeks,” Lambright said. “That’s been our goal, and in order to do that we have to make ourselves attractive. Beating a team like UCLA helps us do that.”